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15 years after: A minute that changed our world

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: April 18, 2010
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MOVING imperceptibly from east to west, the morning sun on April 19, 1995, crossed the 200 block of NW 5. A shadow darted out of harm’s way. Clocks advanced from 9:01 to 9:02, Central Daylight Time.

A moment in time. A moment of eternity.

Lives were brutally stolen in that moment. The lives of hundreds of others were forever changed. A young city aged quickly and visibly, showing lines from worry and despair but also the resilience that the pioneers tapped to survive harsh weather and gutting poverty.

No crop failure or natural disaster, so frequent in these parts, made April 19 a date that will live in infamy. Instead, it was a calculated act of terror arising from one man’s desire for revenge. He spent that moment in time getting away, unwilling to endure or even witness the horror he had wrought.

When Oklahoma City joined Beirut and Tel Aviv and London as a locus of terrorism, outsiders were quick to note our "mature” response to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing — as if a city so relatively small, so relatively insignificant on the world stage, should not be expected to cope or recover.

Insiders were too busy to think about it.

Minute by minute, we trucked out the rubble and carried out the dead, identified them and released them to their families. We shared their pain but could not possibly share their loss. We began to rebuild and we argued over how best to compensate survivors and whether Timothy McVeigh should be executed or left to wallow in his vitriol until a natural death spoke his name.

On this April 19, nearly 8 million minutes will have passed since that moment McVeigh’s fuse reached the explosives. The sun moving across the 200 block of NW 5 no longer illumines a government office building. It floods a field of green planted with sculpted chairs in place of 168 lives and all the memories they made and all the potential that died with them.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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